'Not just an entrepreneur': Vans co-founder Paul Van Doren passes away at age 90

May 8, 2021
PHOTO: (From Left) Vans/Instagram, Erik Hansman/Unsplash

ONE OF the main movers behind the "House of Vans" passed away today, the global shoe company said in a statement released on its social media pages.

Paul Van Doren was 90. No cause of death has been confirmed by reports.

His death comes mere days after the release of his autobiography, Authentic: A Memoir by the Founder of Vans.


In the book, he talks about his hardscrabble life, growing up in Depression-era Massachussets. He was a college dropout who got his start working in the rubber industry. Along with his brother James and two other partners, Van Doren set up The Van Doren Rubber Company in California in 1966. They sold canvas shoes outside of their little plant, with a sign outside that reads "House of Vans".

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Thanks to its tough rubber soles, it became the favored sneaker brand of skateboarders. In fact, their "Off the Wall" tagline comes from skater lingo.

"Paul was not just an entrepreneur; he was an innovator," Vans said in a statement. "The Van Doren Rubber Company was the culmination of a lifetime of experimentation and hard work in the shoe industry."

It added: "Paul’s bold experiments in product design, distribution and marketing, along with his knack for numbers and efficiency turned a family shoe business into a globally recognized brand."


In 1984, the company filed for bankruptcy, but it eventually paid off their $12 million dollar loan. The original founders then retired four years after, when a venture investment firm bought Vans for $74 million.

Though VF Corp. eventually acquired Vans in 2004 and grew it to a $2 billion a year business, "the brand has always been a family business at heart," said WWD's Booth Moore in an obituary.

His son Steve remains Vans' vice president of events and promotions, daughter Cheryl is a vice president of human resources, while two granddaughters have roles in marketing and merchandising, according to WWD.

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PHOTO: (From Left) Vans/Instagram, Erik Hansman/Unsplash
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